The Art of Downsizing

If there is anyone who can share some wisdom on the art of downsizing, it’s my friend Marsee. In the 41 years she and Mike have been married, they have moved a whopping 18 times. A few years ago, they decided it was time to downsize. So they sold their lovely 100-year-old Tudor home (featured in my book Rooms We Love) and bought a townhome just off of Kansas City’s historic Country Club Plaza.

Marsee is thrilled with so many facets of their smaller home. With no yard to care for, and a lot less house to keep up with, they have more time to explore all the city has to offer, from art exhibits to entertainment. Their neighborhood is in the center of it all, and they can walk to shopping, the gym, the library and area parks.

While the outcome is usually satisfying, the process of downsizing can be painful. I asked Marsee to share some of her secrets. Here’s her advice:

Love it or leave it.

When you have a lot less space to live in, you have to make some tough decisions about what will follow you to your new home. Marsee didn’t want the rooms in her new home to be packed full, so she made some tough choices early on, determined to only keep the furniture, artwork and accents that she absolutely could not live without.

Give your extra treasures to those you love.

When Marsee and Mike started out as newlyweds, she remembers how family members helped them outfit their first homes, giving them furniture and other pieces that had been passed down through the generations. She wanted to do the same for her son and daughter-in-law, and other family members.

Once Todd and Brooke picked the family pieces they wanted for their own home, Marsee and Mike loaded them up in a 17-foot Penske truck they nicknamed Big Al and drove the furniture to Arizona. As Marsee shared the story of each piece, Brooke recorded it in a notebook. Now, Marsee says, the couple can start creating their own stories with the heirlooms.


Rethink where your furnishings go.

So often, we get in a rut with our decorating. For example, if a piece of art hung over your fireplace mantel for years, you can’t imagine it anywhere else. When she downsized, Marsee moved a lot of furnishing and accents to new places. For example, the chairs and table that once filled her kitchen’s breakfast nook are now library furniture in their home office, pictured above.

Live in the space awhile before you make final decorating decisions.

When Marsee first moved into the townhome, she thought she wanted a keep her décor very edited. This would be a change for this talented decorator, who has taught me so much about designing layered displays. Interestingly enough, after she lived in the townhome for a few months, she missed the feel of more complex tableaus on her tables. She pulled some of her favorites out of storage and bought a few new pieces and got busy layering.


Discover how to live in your smaller space.

Marsee and Mike love to entertain. But they were not going to be able to accommodate the same number of guests, in the same way, in their smaller townhome. So Marsee began to rethink how they entertained. Instead of having guests congregate in the kitchen or living room, she wanted them to move about the entire home. The table in the photo above, set with appetizers, in right by her front door. She also coaxes guests up to the third floor office by setting up drinks and snacks in the space.